Afghanistan is a country in Asia. This nation is sometimes classified as being part of South Asia. It is sometimes categorized as being in the Middle East. There is no consensus on this.

The neighbours of Afghanistan are Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The climate of Afghanistan is hot in summer and cold in winter. The Hindu Cush mountains dominate the northern section of the country. There is plenty of snow there in winter.

Much of the country is desert. Not much of the land is fertile. There are new forests.

Afghanistan had civilization for thousands of years. A long time ago the nation was Hindu. The place was divided into several warring statelets.

In the 8th century AD Islam came to Afghanistan. The Afghans converted en bloc. 99% of Afghans are Muslims. Most of them are Sunnis. There used to be significant Sikh and Hindu communities. There were Jews in Afghanistan until 10 years ago.

The country gradually united. At times it was conquered by India. The Mongols conquered this land. They then proceeded into India.

Afghanistan then split apart from India in the 17th century. The country was semi-united. There was a King of Afghanistan.

By the mid 19th century the Britishers had established mastery over India. British troops were on the border with Afghanistan. The Afghans had been wont to raid the very west of India. This is the are that we know as Pakistan.

The British went to war against Afghanistan. Most of the soldiers on the British side were Indian. It was 1839 – the First Anglo-Afghan War. It was a rare British defeat. The Afghans practiced guerrilla tactics. They sniped at the Brits from the hills. Only one man made it back to Jalalabad Fort. It was the most ignominious British defeat ever.

Russia and the United Kingdom vied for influence in Central Asia. They sent agents into the region incognito. They had to have absolute command of the local tongues and pass themselves off as Mohammedans. Sometimes they were unmasked and executed. One such type was Connolly who went under the pseudonym Khan-Ali which was an allusion to his real name.

This attempt to wrest control over Central Asia was know to Britons as the Great Game. The Russians called it the Tournament of Shadows – which is more evocative. Sir Rudyard Kipling wrote in a poem ‘I will go far and far into the north playing the great game.’

Much about the region can be gleaned from the pages of The Man who would be king. This is a novel from the pen of Kipling. There was a region called Kaffiristan which held out from Islam until the 19th century.

In 1879 there was another Anglo-Afghan War. The British ambassador in Kabul, Louis Cagnavari, had been murdered. This resulted in another British reverse.

The King of Afghanistan was invited on a state visit to the United Kingdom. He landed at Dover and entrained for London. He arrived at Victoria Station. He was taken by horse drawn coach to Buckingham Palace. One Cockney said to another ”Who is that then?”. The other man answered ”he is the King of Afghanistan.” The first man asked ”So who is king of the other half?” That is because Cockneys pronounce ‘half’ as ‘af’.

In 1919 there was the Third Anglo-Afghan War. This was a draw.

Afghanistan received refugees from Central Asia. In the 1920s Turcomans and the like fled the onslaught of the Red Army. Nevertheless the country established a cordial relationship with the USSR. Some Afghans were exposed to communist ideology. Afghanistan proclaimed her neutrality in the Second World War.

The Central Asians who fled communism in the 1920s were living in Afghanistan  50 years later when another attempt was made to impose communism on them. Their fight was red in tooth and claw.

Afghanistan was still very underdeveloped in the 1950s. The country had very little railway line. Most people were illiterate. Many people lived in abject poverty. Few people had electricity.

In 1970s a communist insurgency started in the country. King Zahir Shah tried to contain it. He was overthrown and a communist regime assumed control. The governing party was the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan PDPA. It was divided into two factions – Khalq (People) and Parcham (Flag).

Many rural Afghans objected to communism. A rebellion began in the countryside. Most Afghans were conservative Muslims. The USSR was worried that its ally would be ousted. On Christmas Eve 1979 the Soviet Army entered Afghanistan. The aim was to prop up the ailing communist government. The world denounced this as an invasion. This was despite Kabul requesting Soviet assistance.

There ensued a ten year irregular conflict. There were many atrocities on both sides. Over 40 000 Soviets were slain. That is what the USSR would admit to. Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan. Pakistan assisted the mujahideen. This mean the resistance. There were at least eight different resistance organisations. The US was very keen to inflict a defeat on the USSR. The CIA gave huge sums of money to arm the mujahideen. They disbursed this to Pakistan. The ISI – Pakistani intelligence – handed it to their preferred factions.

In 1989 the Soviets pulled out. Many people expected the regime to collapse forthwith. It held out for four years. There then followed the war of all against all. Alliances shifted.

Finally in 1993 the Taleban began to take over the country. They were ultra reactionary Islamists. They banned television. They outlawed music. The Pakistanis recognized the Taleban as the de jure government of Afghanistan. Almost every other country recognized the Northern Alliance as the legitimate government of the country. The Northern Alliance held Afghanistan’s UN seat. The Taleban were mostly Pathans and spoke Pashto. That made them the same group as the people in Pakistan’s north-west.

Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qa’eda organization was in Afghanistan at the invitation of the Taleban. The Talibs brought some very rough justice to the country.

In 2001 Al Qa’eda carried out the attacks on the World Trade Centre. It was the 11th of September. These infamous attacks were called Nine Eleven.

The US Government demanded that the Taleban hand over Bin Laden to stand trial and expel the Al Qa’eda members. The Talibs refused. The United States commenced military action. They fought in close concert with the Northern Alliance. The USA invoked the article of the NATO charter that demanded other NATO members help them. NATO countries sent troops to assist.

The conflict in Afghanistan rumbles on. The Taleban have clawed back much of the country. Opium is almost the only export. The king came back. Zahir Shah had been in exile in Rome. He was not restored to his throne. He died some years back.

The country is democracy. Hamid Karzai was the president of years. Corruption is endemic. Women’s rights have advanced markedly under the new system.

Dari and Pashto are the main languages. Turcoman, Uzbek and Tajik are also spoken. Dari is Persian – the language of Iran. Iran is a very Shia country which is why Afghanistan will not unite with it.

The flag is a tricolor. The vertical bars are black, green and red. There is a white emblem like a building on the middle bar which is red.

Afghanistan is a poverty stricken country. It relies on foreign aid. Many Afghans work abroad. They are particularly found in Pakistan.


  1. What is the capital of this country?
  2. What was the original religion of the country?
  3. Which lands border this one? Five marks.
  4.  What is the main mountain range?
  5. Does this nation have a littoral?
  6. What is the main religion of the country?
  7. Who was the last king of the country?
  8. What are the two major languages?
  9.  Which European country invaded Afghanistan in the 19th century?
  10.  Which superpower sent troops in here in 1979?
  11. What was the ideology of the PDPA?
  12. Who are the Taleban? Three marks?
  13. What was Nine Eleven?
  14.  What are the minor languages of this country?
  15. Dari is the same as which language?
  16. What is the climate of Afghanistan like?
  17.  What is the landscape like?
  18.  What is the main export?
  19. Who was the first president of free Afghanistan?
  20.  Would you like to visit this land?

About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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